Age in K-Pop has always played a significant role in deciding the fate of an idol’s career. While kids as young as 13 years old are tough in the industry, it is rare to come across debutantes past the age of 18 or 19.
There are several factors at work behind this industry trend, ease of training and easy appeal to a younger audience being only a few of them. And while this age-based bias affects all idols, it is especially harsh on the careers of female idols.
Despite this setback, there are many female idols who have successfully challenged ageism in K-Pop and continue to rock their careers!
Born in 1991, Irene is currently 31 years old. She is the leader of Red Velvet, one of the most popular girl groups in South Korea. This multi-talented woman is loved by fans for her stunning visuals and high-energy performance skills on stage. With a career span of eight years and counting, the longevity of Irene’s charms is unmatched!
Solar is the 31-year-old leader of MAMAMOO, another beloved girl group. Known for her enchanting vocals, she is an empowering idol, a variety show star, and a successful YouTuber! Debuted in 2014, Solar has been working in the industry for eight years now. And she has no plans to stop anytime soon!
Hyolyn debuted in a four-member girl group called SISTAR in 2010 at 20 years old. After the group disbanded in 2017, Hyolyn set up her own entertainment company Bridʒ and started her career as a soloist. She is widely known for her insane vocal stability while performing intense choreography on stage. Hyolyn recently participated in a competitive reality TV show, Queendom, which amplified her reputation and popularity as a soloist.
4. Brave Girls
This four-member girl group debuted in 2011, but it was only in 2021 that they got to see success. Their song “Rollin,” originally released in 2017, got unexpectedly viral four years later through a fan edit. And that completely turned around their careers. With three members in their 30s and one 29-year-old, Brave Girls is just getting started on their career journey. Currently, the group is on its first U.S. tour!
CL was a part of one of the most successful 2nd generation girl groups called 2NE1. After the abrupt hiatus of her group in 2015, she started her solo career. In 2016, she became the first female Korean soloist to crack an entry into Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Though it has been almost thirteen years since her debut as an idol, CL has never stopped pushing her career to new heights!
Also known as the “Queen of K-Pop.” BoA (currently aged 35 years) has one of the longest-running successful careers as an idol. She debuted in 2000 and still actively puts out new music. In 2021, BoA became a part of the supergroup called Got The Beat and debuted with co-members Taeyeon and Hyoyeon from Girls’ Generation, Seulgi and Wendy from Red Velvet, and Karina and Winter from Aespa on January 3, 2022.
7. Lee Hyori
Dubbed the “nation’s fairy,” Lee Hyori started her career in the girl group Fin K.L. in 1998! She then went solo and pursued a career in music, acting, TV hosting, and variety shows. In 2020, she released a single, “Beach Again,” with Rain. In 2021, she was a part of the project group called Refund Sisters with Um Jung Hwa, Jessi, and Hwasa from MAMAMOO. This 43-year-old wonderwoman is still pursuing her career in the entertainment industry, achieving new milestones.
8. Um Jung Hwa
Known for both stellar musical and acting careers, Um Jung Hwa is a role model for many of her successors in the industry. At 52 years of age, she is one of the oldest K-Pop idols active currently. She also has one of the most badass comeback stories. Um Jung Hwa was diagnosed with thyroid cancer but made a full recovery in 2010. She put her music career on hold for several years until 2020 when she became a part of Refund Sisters. Later that year, she released her single “Hop In” with Hwasa and DPR Live.
All of these women are pathbreaking in their own ways. Hopefully, newer female idols will get to follow the path they paved and experience longevity in their careers instead of the anxiety of growing old and falling out of the spotlight.